After a bombshell report from the New York Times revealed a litany of sexual harassment allegations against him, the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is reportedly on his way to rehab to be treated for sex addiction, TMZ reported.
But that’s not the whole story.
The Times’ investigation chronicled what became a familiar pattern: Women accused him in court of unwanted advances, alienation, and other inappropriate behavior, and Weinstein and his lawyers paid to settle the cases quietly.
It happened for 30 years.
Three days after the Times’ story was published, Weinstein’s entertainment company fired him. On Tuesday, his wife, the designer Georgina Chapman, announced she was leaving him.
It was in this vacuum that the star allegedly turned to therapy for sex addiction. Yet there’s a lot about Weinstein that we still don’t know. We don’t know whether or not he had previously sought counseling. We don’t know whether he is a diagnosed sex addict. All we know is that he was charged repeatedly with accusations that suggest that he violated the rights of many women.
For those reasons and much more, it’s crucial that we avoid throwing around the term “sex addict,” certified sex addiction therapist Jenner Bishop told Business Insider. This does a disservice to the thousands of Americans who actually grapple with sex addiction. More importantly, said Bishop — most clients with real sex addiction display some key characteristics, including repeatedly seeking help and displaying a sense of internal strife or despair.
“There are men who come into my office for treatment throwing around sex addiction when really they’re philanderers. They’re serial womanizers. They’re dogs. But because we don’t have a real definition for it, someone — any other therapist — could supposedly treat them for that. That label is very seductive in terms of everybody having a mea culpa,” Jenner said.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the use of the term “sex addiction” among psychologists and therapists. Some argue that it doesn’t exist, pointing to the fact that the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM) — widely considered the psychiatrist’s bible for identifying mental illnesses — doesn’t include it on the grounds that there aren’t enough large studies on the topic to support it. But many others say it is a real disorder that needs attention and treatment — and the fact that it gets thrown around among celebrities actually makes it tougher to do this.
Jenner said it’s fairly easy to tell the difference between someone who has a real sex addiction and needs help and someone who is simply seeking an easy way out.
“There are people who end up in our office because they’ve been caught and all of a sudden they realize they need to do something. They need an excuse for their behavior,” Jenner said. Those cases stand in sharp contrast to the patients she treats who really need help.
“Real sex addiction has a characteristic of inner conflict and stress and helplessness. Generally, it’s people who have a much more serious understanding and a sense of internal conflict around this. These are people who have sworn repeatedly to themselves, — ‘I’ll never do this again,’ — people who’ve tried putting up barriers to the behavior and find themselves running over them anyway and find themselves in despair,” Jenner said.
When people presenting with these characteristics come in, Jenner can say to them, “OK we have a treatment protocol that can actually help you because you have some sense of personal integrity and who you want to be and how you want to get there.”
Other therapists agree. They say sex addiction is definitely a reality, but that it’s often used to the advantage of people — particularly celebrities — as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card.
“Personally, I believe that sex addiction is a reality, but that it affects a small minority of individuals,” Mark Griffiths, a psychologist and professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, wrote in a blog post.
“One of the reasons why sex addiction may not be taken seriously is that the term is often used by high-profile celebrities as an excuse,” he said.